Duct Tape Challenge Disaster: Takeaways for Parents and Teens
A Washington boy is lucky to be alive after a game gone wrong
It probably seemed like fun at the time. A teen and his friends were playing a game known as the duct tape challenge, in which one person wraps the other in duct tape to see how fast he can escape, when the unexpected happened, landing the teen in the hospital with grave injuries.
With his legs and hands taped, Skylar Fish of Washington State fell as he tried to free himself, striking his head on the corner of a window frame and slamming into concrete, crushing his eye socket according to reports. He needed 48 staples in his head, noted his mother, Sarah Fish, on a GoFundMe page she created.
“Like most teens, Sky liked to do fun things with his friends that he didnt [sic] always like to tell me about, for fear of mom not letting him. Today, there are so many ‘challenges’ going around on social medias. Some are harmless, but most of them are really dangerous!”
The duct tape challenge is indeed just one of the latest in a long line of risky games kids play. (Remember the cinnamon challenge and the choking game?)
“This is not the first, this is not the last,” notes child and teen development specialist Robyn Silverman, PhD. Kids are drawn to these challenges because “they feel thrilling and exciting and are noteworthy on social media. But the fact that things can go horribly wrong puts these games in a different light.”
Of course teens don’t always recognize the potential danger of a situation — and even if they do, they may think nothing bad will happen to them. “Sometimes teens can be impulsive and view their lives as untouchable,” says Silverman. “Even though the risks are real, many teens don’t view those risks as real for them.” In short, kids think they’re invincible.
Even if danger is obviously involved, kids may not care. “Challenges always outweigh the risks with teens,” says clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg, PhD.
What parents can do
Start by doing your homework on games kids are playing. “They can
Google it and read about it,” says Silverman.
Next, speak up.
“I think that parents need to be courageous and ask their children, ‘What have you heard about these games, do you know anybody who does them, are you curious about them, do you know the dangers?’ and get it out on the table,” says Silverman.
Greenberg suggests using incidents like the duct tape tragedy as teaching opportunities. “You’re much more likely to get through to a teen if you use media opportunities, look at YouTube videos with them, if you show them what’s happening rather than lecture them on what they should not do. They tune out if it feels like a lecture.”
The goal, says Silverman, is to avoid “the ‘I wish I had known’ concern and the ‘I wish I had said something’ concern.”
Let your child ask questions, and be a good listener, says Silverman. “It’s hopefully an open-ended conversation that happens periodically so that your child feels comfortable coming to you later and saying, ‘Oh, I saw this happen at a party.’”
You can even share stories from your own past. “You can tell them, ‘When I was younger I did something really dumb, this is what I did, and now in retrospect I realize how tragic it could have been,’” says Silverman.
Related: Is Your Teen Being Cyberbullied?
Don’t forget to teach empathy
Finally, remind your child that his wellbeing isn’t the only priority. “Kids have to be responsible for one another,” says Greenberg.
“When you talk to teens about being responsible for themselves, you should talk to them about being responsible for their friends as well. There should be a consequence not only if the child does something but also if a member of their group is in trouble and they don’t seek help for that child. It’s all about taking responsibility for one another.”
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